DriveNets’ CEO Ido Susan on the Latest Market Dynamics in Service Provider networking

DriveNets’ CEO Ido Susan Explains the Latest Market Dynamics in Service Provider networking.

Ido Susan analyzes recent news in the Service Provider networking space, including the buzz around new distributed disaggregated networking model endorsed by AT&T and how it impacts incumbent networking models.

1. FierceTelecom: First, let’s start with what challenges DriveNets is addressing, and why are we seeing a growing interest in network disaggregation by service providers?

Ido Susan: DriveNets’ solution – Network Cloud addresses Communications Service Providers’ (CSPs) economic challenges by allowing them to grow the network’s profitability and reduce its operational complexity. It does so by adopting the architectural model of cloud hyperscalers and adapting it to networking, creating a simplified disaggregated networking model that can scale-out and up at a very large scale. 

Network Cloud is a cloud-native software that is disaggregated from the infrastructure of white boxes on which it runs.  It can scale linearly from running over a single white box to a cluster of hundreds of white boxes and can support the largest core and edge networks in the world.  It also drives tremendous efficiency through visualization, just like clouds. It can support any service on any port at any scale over a shared physical infrastructure of white boxes. This new model increases CSPs’ scale and profitability, and breaks vendor lock-in. CSPs can grow the physical infrastructure of white boxes with any vendor of their choice, independently from the Networking software running on them.

2. Fierce Telecom: The problem you are describing isn’t new, network cost and scale have been addressed in the past with bigger, better routers and ASICs.  How is network disaggregation any better?

Ido Susan: Bigger faster routers solve the immediate capacity growth issue, but they do not fundamentally address the huge complexity and cost of the current network model.

A bigger chassis-based router can lower some of the costs and virtualize some of the traffic within the router, but they cannot fundamentally change the model.  A solution from a single vendor, that provides the ASIC, the hardware and the software is not only priced higher than an open white-box based model, but its scale is limited to the confines of the router chassis.  Growing beyond one router, requires a costly rip and replace or additional routers in a CLOS configuration which are both very costly.

The new disaggregated model completely changes the way networks are built, operated and scaled. The open nature of the disaggregated architecture allows CSPs to select the best of breed components for each part of the system - best ASICs, lowest cost white-boxes, and best software that supports new cloud-based technologies. It enables CSPs to lower their costs by using standard networking white boxes which are typically sold at a cost+ model and low margins. And when the next generation of faster more power-efficient ASICs enter the market, they can simply grow their network by buying additional white boxes based on the new ASICs and add them to the cluster.  Also, the new cloud-native software enables sharing of any-service on any-port and drives further cost savings through better utilization of the infrastructure and fewer overlays. On top of that, the software-centric routing infrastructure can grow linearly to unprecedented scale, supporting many types of networks and services running in separate containers over a shared physical infrastructure. This is flexibility that the traditional router simply cannot match.

3. Fierce Telecom: Does Cisco’s recent announcement make network disaggregation less relevant?

Ido Susan: The announcement of bigger, better router and ASICs makes network disaggregation even more relevant.  It shows that one vendor alone cannot solve the challenges of the existing model, the best they can hope for is to offer some improvements.

The disaggregated networking model isn’t new. It started ten years ago with single switches. Today there are many projects supported by the OCP (Open Compute Project) that provide disaggregated switching solutions.  However, they are limited to single white boxes. Now for the first time there are components available, such as chipsets, optics and the DriveNets software that can build a disaggregated router that is bigger than any chassis-based one.  This router can scale from a single white box to many of them enabling a single router instance at any size. Today we have a disaggregated router in a Tier-1 CSP lab, that is connected to 960 ports of 100Gbps. And this is just half of the cluster capacity. You don’t have chassis-based solutions today that can scale to these numbers.  We are extremely proud of this achievement, since it demonstrates that networking disaggregation is possible just as it is in hyperscale clouds.

There is a reason why a leading service provider such as AT&T is driving a new open distributed network architecture. For a major change to happen, there’s a need to open the model and have leading players endorse it. Key players who are building software, hardware, ASICs, optical components and services, and can come together to create network solutions that can scale out and up cost-effectively.  Very similar what happened to/ what is happening in the compute and storage industry. Only an open ecosystem can increase innovation and choice and drive costs down.

The announcement that DriveNets made this week, aims at exactly that – creating an open ecosystem of leading industry vendors such as Broadcom, UfiSpace, EdgeCore and Delta, who are working together to drive greater networking innovation, scale and efficiency.  We encourage other vendors to join us and help drive these network efficiencies further. 

4. Fierce Telecom: What is the significance of DriveNets’ announcement this week?

Ido Susan: We believe that the network must be open. The open disaggregated network architecture with its well-defined interface points allows more vendors to participate, increasing competition, innovation and choice, which result in better products and lower cost.

The open ecosystem DriveNets announced today offers this exactly. It brought together software solutions, leading ODMs like UfiSpace, Edgecore and Delta, whose white boxes offer the physical building blocks for the distributed disaggregated chassis (DDC) model that was proposed to the OCP (Open Compute Project) by AT&T, and chip manufacturers like Broadcom whose latest merchant silicon chips - Ramon and Jericho2 enable the capacity and scale required by this new networking model. Working together, we offer better networking solutions with greater innovation and scale and lower cost options than any vendor can do alone.

These industry partnerships create a networking ecosystem that ends vendor lock-in and empowers CSPs to innovate and grow.

The disaggregated architecture also allows SPs to accelerate network capacity growth, improve network profitability, roll out new services and scale with unprecedented operational flexibility.

5. Fierce Telecom: We are at an inflection point in the service provider market, how do you view the market changing?

Ido Susan: I would like to quote Shin Umeda, Vice President at Dell’Oro who said that the momentum is building for new IP core and edge network architectures based on disaggregated hardware and software and the use of white boxes. The new architectures enable service providers to grow their networks faster and more efficiently, while reducing their dependency on traditional vendor integrated solutions.

I believe that we will see more vendors joining the ecosystem, opening their software, hardware and ASICs to other vendors to enable CSPs to build open software-based networks over standard white boxes, and drive similar scale, growth and profitability as cloud hyperscalers.  Some CSPs are ahead of the game and are leading the change, while others are slower to move, waiting to see others succeed first. 

Network disaggregation is already in the labs of the leading service providers in the world and is gaining momentum.  I believe that it is here to stay, bringing new energy and growth to CSPs, their networks and their customers.

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